After PDEA chief’s remark, Robredo doubts drug czar offer even more

Mara Cepeda
'Paano magiging maayos ang trabaho mo, kung ngayon pa lang, 'yung taong makakasama mo sa trabaho ay ayaw kang magtagumpay?' asks Vice President Leni Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez

DRUG CZAR? Vice President Leni Robredo's spokesperson responds to criticism from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino. File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is now more wary of President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer for her to join his Cabinet as drug czar after an anti-drug official doubted she would succeed if she accepts the post.

The Vice President’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said this after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said Robredo would surely “fail” if she would lead the government’s anti-drug campaign.

“Paano ka namang maniniwala na seryoso itong alok na maging ‘drug czar’ kung ngayon pa lang, sinisiraan na agad si VP Leni ng mga taong dapat magpapatupad ng kampanya laban sa droga?” said Gutierrez in a statement on Monday, November 4. 

(How can you even believe that the offer for her to be “drug czar” is serious if as early as now, those who should be implementing the campaign against drugs are already maligning VP Leni?)

“Paano magiging maayos ang trabaho mo, kung ngayon pa lang, ‘yung taong makakasama mo sa trabaho ay ayaw kang magtagumpay? Mukhang nagiging malinaw kung ano talaga ang totoong agenda sa usapang ito,” he added. 

(How would you be able to perform your job well if as early as now, the people you would be working with are saying they don’t want you to succeed? It’s getting clearer what the real agenda here is.)

An irked Duterte offered to make Robredo his drug czar after the Vice President said in a Reuters interview that the President’s violent drug war needs to be “tweaked” because it is “not working.”

But Robredo said that by asking her to become the drug czar, the President seemed to be admitting that his anti-drug campaign is a failure. She also doubts Duterte was serious in his offer in the first place. (READ: Robredo to Duterte: Don’t be ‘onion-skinned’ over the drug war)

On November 1, Robredo’s spokesperson said the Vice President is open to helping Duterte address the drug problem, but she would not be made a “scapegoat for all the shortcomings” of the drug war.

The Vice President has long been a critic of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has seen deaths of at least 5,526 drug personalities in legitimate police operations alone.

Human rights organizations estimate the total death toll at more than 27,000, to include those killed vigilante-style. –


Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.